The Times of London reports,
In [this week’s NME] Morrissey, who now lives in Los Angeles and Rome, says: “With the issue of immigration, it’s very difficult because, although I don’t have anything against people from other countries, the higher the influx into England, the more the British identity disappears. So the price is enormous.”
And therein lies one of the central dilemmas of political life in developed societies: sharing and solidarity can conflict with diversity. This is an especially acute dilemma for progressives who want plenty of both solidarity (high social cohesion and generous welfare paid out of a progressive tax system) and diversity (equal respect for a wide range of peoples, values and ways of life). The tension between the two values is a reminder that serious politics is about trade-offs. It also suggests that the left’s recent love affair with diversity may come at the expense of the values and even the people that it once championed.
This isn’t to say that Morrissey is right. “British identity” is disappearing for a number of reasons, among them the reassertion of minority nationalisms. But it is undoubtedly true that contemporary Britain is more diverse than it was in 1950, the high tide of British egalitarianism, and that the new diversity has had a decidedly uneven impact.
My own view is that the influx has been mostly beneficial, and that the available alternatives were pretty unattractive. But I certainly don’t think Morrissey should be derided as racist for pointing out the obvious: the “British identity” of his youth, an interesting choice of words in light of his Irish origins (an English identity was presumably not an option), has in some real sense been undermined.